What Is Total Quality Management?

Emily Suzuki Emily Suzuki February 9, 2023

6 min read

Learn about the elements and principles of the popular management philosophy, total quality management, and how to implement it.

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The concept of total quality management (TQM) can be traced back to the early 1920s when the statistical theory was initially applied to the process of quality control for manufactured products. During the 1940s, the application of TQM spread throughout the company, shifting away from the idea that only the products needed such control. Gradually, total quality management covered all issues within the organization.

Now that we have an overview of the history of total quality management, we can move on to what it entails in detail.

What is Total Quality Management?

In general, TQM is a management philosophy that helps focus every organizational function toward meeting the needs of the consumer and achieving predefined corporate objectives. The different units in the company (marketing, finance, sales, design, engineering, manufacturing, and even customer service) are geared toward continuous improvement. According to TQM, the organization is applied to a collection of processes.

Continuous improvement is then achieved by integrating the knowledge, skills, and experiences of the workers in a bid to get it right. The objective of TQM is summarized thus; “Do the right things right the first time, every time.” This management practice is also very scalable, flexible, and adaptable.

The adaptability has also caused it to receive widespread acceptance in other operations besides manufacturing. It’s now regarded as a general management practice that applies to the public sector as well as private ventures.

What are the primary elements of a total quality management system?

Total quality must be what defines the culture, attitude, and organization of a company whose aim is to provide the best possible products and services for its customers. 

Quality must be worked through and clearly understood in word and practice in these eight primary elements:

  1. Leadership – providing a clear line of sight for understanding and implementing TQM.
  2. Communication – clear communication holds everything together, not just from management to employees, but input from employees and between departments.
  3. Trust – born out of the company’s integrity and fair treatment of employees.
  4. Training – must be continuous and purposeful, not just in quality in job performance, but also in decision-making, problem-solving, and teamwork. 
  5. Recognition – People found and recognized for their positive contributions. This improves self-esteem, productivity, and engagement.  
  6. Integrity – honesty and fairness in every situation.
  7. Ethics – both company and personal codes of right and wrong.
  8. Teamwork – better problem-solving, longer-lasting improvements, and company cohesion.

What are the principles of total quality management?

We have aptly summarized total quality management as a tool that involves the continual improvement of all employees. We can move on to establish the elements of this radical concept.

Below, we mention eight practices of TQM:

1. Customer-focused

Yes, the customer is king, and this is not changing anytime soon. This is because the consumer dictates the ultimate level of quality, and they have a say in how the organization defines the standard. Irrespective of the effort the company is devoting towards continuous improvement, whether by training the staff or improving the equipment, the customer ultimately decides if it’s worth it.

2. Employee participation

Employees should be willing to actively participate in working assiduously to achieve the defined company objectives. While this sounds like an easy feat, the major obstacle to total employee involvement is fear. Hence, total quality management also involves employee empowerment. One way this is done is by providing a self-managed work team. Also, management is expected to ensure that the work environment is halcyon and conducive to productive work.

3. Process thinking

Process thinking is another core area of total quality management. In essence, a process is a series of steps where the input is acquired from the supplier. Then, a transformation occurs, changing these supplies into an output. This output is then delivered to the customer. Although the steps involved in the process are always predefined, close monitoring ensures there’s no drastic variation.

4. Integrated system

A conventional organization consists of different units, each with distinct specialties. Usually, these are organized into departments using the vertical structure. The main concern of total quality management is the horizontal process that connects these different functions.

Basically, smaller processes aggregate to become larger processes. And they all culminate in the business operation. It’s a must for employees to demonstrate an accurate understanding of the policies, objectives, and mission of the company. The integrated system also connects the different branches of the business with elements of continuous improvement.

5. Systematic approach

As we’ve seen earlier, TQM is a very strategic way of achieving the goals and objectives of any organization. The essence of TQM is that a business plan revolves around integrating quality into the organization.

6. Continuous improvement

In total quality management, the end goal (which is to improve) is a means to an end goal (which is to improve), and the cycle continues. Continual improvement is what drives the organization to draw on both analytical and creative ways by which growth can be engendered.

7. Decisions based on facts

To assess the performance of a certain organization, specific metrics are identified, and these measures are necessary to make any major decision. In essence, total quality management is also concerned with how an organization can collect and analyze data to ensure that making decisions is seamless. This is also to get accurate projections based on historical events.

8. Communication

We couldn’t have ended this list without mentioning this, could we? Effective communication is not just recommended in businesses, it is proffered by relationship experts, academic scholars, and a host of professionals in other fields. Similarly, communication plays a major role in any effective total quality management approach.

What are total quality management system strategies?

Now that a decision has been made to implement a TQM System, various strategies ensure its smooth integration into the company. A company may use one or a combination of strategies.

The first is the TQM Element Approach, where a company makes improvements based on the primary principles we’ve discussed in this article so far.

The Organization Model Approach is when a company visits and analyzes another more successful company and makes improvements based on its findings.

The Japanese Total Quality Approach is when the implementation techniques and strategies of Deming Prize-winning companies are adapted and adopted (over the short and long term) by companies hoping for similar success. 

The Award Criteria Approach is when a company uses the criteria of prestigious awards, such as the Deming Prize, the European Quality Award, or the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award, as a basis for their improvements. 

Finally, the Guru Approach is when companies use the work of leading quality thinkers to evaluate company deficiencies and as a strategy to raise the quality standard overall. 

Implement your own total quality management system

This is one of those cases where the results speak for themselves. Total quality management is an approach with a tremendous amount of acceptance based on stellar recommendations and feedback. It is undoubtedly an approach for any company looking to improve continually.

Are you tired of managing all your quality management paperwork? Try Fusion Operations today:

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